I've been thinking a lot about the concept of the struggles of entrepreneurship as a "mechanism of selection".
Some time ago, I got to have a 1:1 chat with a VC who's interested in bringing more Under-Represented Minorities into entrepreneurship. As we were bouncing off ideas on how to get the thing to work she said, "there has to be some difficulty involved in pitching a project or anyone would do it".
The idea (idk if she said this or I conceptualized it later) is that entrepreneurship requires a certain drive to solve problems and do what it takes to get something off the ground. If anyone can pitch, then how are you going to recognize people who have a great idea but who don't have "what it takes" to make it happen? Making it harder for people to get in front of you is by itself a mechanism of selection.
Now, there are other ways of achieving similar things and it's an imperfect signal. Even further, there's reasons why such a process will end up selecting out URMs way more than other people. (And also I hate the whole VC model, but that's for another post). Still I believe there's a core lesson in this.
Tonight I pitched a new idea for a model of a financially self-sustaining social network: what would happen if we allowed people to create communities you can pay to join and share a part of the profit between the platform and the community manager? [Insert placeholder for a post on why community management is broken on present social networks and how we need smaller internet communities to survive]
There was an interesting objection: how do you stop people who will try to make low quality communities with scummy practices in order to make money?
I don't have fully formed answers to that yet, but the idea of "mechanisms of selections" keeps coming to mind. What if you don't give just about everyone the possibility to monetize? How do you put enough obstacles in the way so the system will self-select honest community managers with the skill (and the grit) to make good communities?
[Aside #1: the idea of Things You Want to Do not having to be as easy and fast as possible, a.k.a. an artificial slowdown, is also connected to Mechanisms of Selection. I toyed with the idea of purposely just-bad-enough UX so that people cannot tweet too fast and end up thinking harder about what they want to post. Incidentally, writetogether achieves thoughtfulness with the artificial slowdown of a minimum word count.]
[Aside #2: social networks you have to pay to join (like writetogether) are employing willingness to pay money as a Mechanism of Selection.]
In my ideal social network model, people would be compensated for their work managing communities and we'd create a synergy between platforms, community managers and users. We must, however, be intentional about how this synergy works and which incentives it promotes. Eventually, we need to implement Mechanisms of Selection for people who share our values. Only then platform, moderators and users can truly work together as a team.